Baylor put a historic winning streak to the test in late February against Kansas last season and saw it crumble against their 12th biggest opponent. Fast-forward to the season, as the # 2 Bears face the deja vu after ending their unbeaten run Saturday night in a 71-58 loss to Jayhawks # 17 in Phog Allen Fieldhouse, leaving the Gonzaga as the last undefeated team at college basketball.
The Bears (18-1, 10-1 Big 12) started slow at both halves and never recovered in the second half against the Kansas team who dominated the boards and painters. The Jayhawks David McCormack Center played a big part in that equation, scoring 20 points in a compensatory effort after a bad outing in Baylor’s first match last month.
Kansas (18-8, 12-6 Big 12) have now won six of their last seven matches with only a no-conference match against UTEP on Thursday in their schedule before starting post-season play. Jayhawks entered the night as the expected number 5 NCAA Championship, according to CBS Sports Brackets Expert Jerry Palm, but the victory is a feather in the ceiling of the program that has endured some difficulties this season.
The bears will remain in the first place expected but will decline to number three overall with Michigan ranked second overall in the expected Palm category. The Wolverines improved to 18-1 overall and 13-1 in the Big Ten by beating Indiana on Saturday as they had won five in a row since returning from a 23-day break between matches earlier this month.
Baylor is still looking for his rhythm after returning from a 21-day break with a narrow victory over a bad team in Iowa on Tuesday. The suffering of the bears in that game turned out to be an accurate prediction of the issues they faced on Saturday. Just like last season, when Baylor scored a 23-game winning streak in his second game for Kansas, the Jayhawks avoided a sweep and spoiled Baylor’s extension of dominance.
Is still slow
Baylor dropped 13-6 to start the match and then allowed Kansas to start the second half 10-3. In the first half, he fought the Bears to lead 30-26 on one point. They narrowed their deficit to 45-42 at 12:41 in the second half in a 4-point match from MaCio Teague but never came close. Unlike on Tuesday, when Baylor trailed 15-32 to Iowa, the Bears were unable to score. This was undoubtedly a reflection of the level of competition, and it raises questions about how the bears have performed in their last three matches.
Baylor still has matches against West Virginia, Oklahoma State and Texas Tech, all of whom are well-positioned to win NCAA Championship shows. There is no easy game in this extension that Baylor can use to get things right before the post-season starts.
When Baylor and Kansas met for the first time this season on January 18, McCormack had averaged 20.3 points per game over the course of his previous three matches in what constituted an offensive attack for the Mercurial Junior. But when it came to a draw with the Bears, McCormack’s hot streak ended with only six points in Baylor’s 77-69 victory.
He came in for recovery in the first half of the rematch, scooping 14 points on a 5 of 5 shot at the opening frame to help put the Jayhawks ahead 33-30 in the first half. Although he only scored three rebounds, McCormack helped Kansas dominate the match physically. Kansas beat Baylor 48-28, outperforming the Beers 42-32 in paint.
When Jared Butler hit a corner kick to score his first points in the match with 10:14 left, that reduced Baylor’s deficit to 52-47 and felt like the kind of bucket that could make Pears’ scorer go ahead. Butler ultimately remained a non-factor, finishing the season with five low points. The 6-foot-3 goalkeeper entered with an average of 20 points over the last six Baylor Games, dating back to his 30-point blast in January’s win over Kansas. With the Bears collecting only five points off the bench on Saturday, there was simply not enough firepower to overcome the scoring void left by Butler.